Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #100

Frontier Status Report #100

June 5, 1998

Dale M. Gray

Second Anniversary Issue

A big week with a Shuttle launch, a Mir attitude control failure and contradicting news concerning the planned deorbit of the Mir space station. Steps toward consolidation of American civilian and military weather satellites were taken while Boeing and LockMart submitted bids for the Consolidated Space Operations Contract which will consolidate operations for NASA manned and remote space activities. China successfully launched a Long March 3B.

Highlights of the week of June 5 include:

  • Shuttle Discovery launches and docks with Mir.
  • New ISS assembly sequence announced.
  • Mir attitude failure resolved.
  • China Long March launches ChinaStar 1
  • Idaho Native American high school places experiment on Shuttle.


Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center Pad 39A at 6:06.24 p.m. EDT June 2 on the Mir Rendezvous/ Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer mission (STS-91). Several minor technical issues were worked through during the built-in holds and the optimal launch time for the mission to Mir was determined at T-9 minutes. The first use of the new super light weight External Tank proceeded nominally. Both SRBs have been recovered and display no significant damage. The 9 day 19 hour mission will include a four day docking with the Mir space station (NASA; LaunchSpace; Doug Pratt).

Problems with the Shuttle's Ku-band communications developed soon after launch. The system is used to send TV signals from the Shuttle down to the ground. Without the system, the historic last meeting of Shuttle with Mir, will not be broadcast from the American side. Data from scientific experiments will be stored on tape. The Shuttle was still able to communicate with the ground and send some video over the slower S-band system. The problem did not affect the Shuttle's ability to track and then dock with the Mir space station (AP).

On Thursday, June 4, the Shuttle linked with the Russian space station Mir. After being welcomed by the Mir crew, the task of transferring 3,000 pounds of supplies and fresh food began. Valeri Ryumin who arrived on the Shuttle began inspecting the station he helped design and has managed for 12 years. U.S astronaut Andy Thomas began moving this personal effects, equipment and experimental results back to the shuttle. Shuttle will remain linked to Mir until Thursday, bringing to an end 907 days of American presence on the station (Flatoday).

Shuttle crewmember Valeri Ryumin, is no stranger to space, though he has never flown Shuttle nor been on Mir. Ryumin, 56, has not been in space for 18 years, but two decades ago he held the record for human space flight. His first flight in 1977 was on the first crew to occupy Salyut-6, but their craft failed to dock with the station and had to return. Subsequently, in 1979 he again was sent to Salyut-6 and conducted a record-breaking flight of 175 days. When a cosmonaut slated for the next Salyut crew damaged his knee on a trampoline, Ryumin was asked to fill in on short notice. His second stay on Salyut-6 lasted 185 days. Following the second flight, Ryumin retired from the cosmonaut corps and has since served in management roles designing space stations. His wife, Elena Kondakova, flew to Mir on a Shuttle in 1995 and set a woman's space endurance record of 169 days. Since NASA has allowed one cosmonaut to fly on each of its missions to Mir, on the last mission Ryumin appointed himself to the position and will use the opportunity to inspect the Mir space station. To qualify for the NASA flight standards, Ryumin lost 55 pounds (Flatoday; Peter Bond's "Reaching for the Stars").


The primary experiment on Discovery is the 3.5 ton magnetic spectrometer. However, a number of Get Away Special (GAS) cannisters also contain experiments.

One of the two Canadian experiments on board the Shuttle is the Microgravity Industry Related Research for Oil Recovery (Mirror). This Canadian experiment will measure oil diffusion rates, analyze surfactant foams used by oil companies and study how hydrocarbons move through porous rock. The results of the experiments will be used to improve models of how these processes work on Earth and to improve the recovery of oil from existing fields, The experiment is being conducted by the Centre for Cold Oceans Resources Engineering in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency and a variety of oil companies (C-CORE; ZedComm Inc PR; CSA PR).

The second Canadian experiment is the Atlantic Canada Thin Organic Semiconductors (ACTORS) which compares thin films produced in microgravity with those produced on Earth. The study seeks to understand the Physical Vapour Transport process and the role gravity plays on the formation of thin films. It is hoped that this knowledge will help improve the production of thin film in more traditional full-gravity manufacturing plants (CSA PR).

Another experiment flying on the Shuttle was designed by Shoshone-Bannock High School students from Fort Hall, Idaho. The experiment will mix water and phosphate ore to see if fertilizer can be produced in space. The project is the fruition of a four year effort and is the first Native American school project to fly in space. The students who began the project, now graduated, were on hand to watch Discovery's launch (Flatoday).


On May 30, the Mir space station once again lost attitude control from an apparent computer malfunction, the first in the five months since the attitude control computer was replaced. Unlike previous failures, the station did not immediately lose orientation with the sun and so power continued to be produced by the solar panels. Cosmonauts were able to maintain the station's attitude toward the sun by switching to the back-up system which utilizes thrusters on the station and the docked Progress supply vessel. While replacement of the attitude control computer was attempted, it did not resolve the problem. A software fix was transmitted to the station, but it also did not work. Finally the Omega star tracker in the Kristall module was either replaced or switched to a backup and the attitude control system was successfully restarted. By the morning of June 2, the necessary tests were concluded and the station's 11 serviceable gyrodynes were spun up to speed. This cleared the way for the docking of the Shuttle, though Russian officials stated that the docking could be accomplished utilizing station and Progress thrusters for attitude control (Chris v.d. Berg; AP).

The French space agency (CNES) announced May 25 that they will be sending Jean-Pierre Haignere to the Mir space station. The experienced French astronaut spent 15 days on Mir in 1993. The trip, scheduled for July of 1999 confirms Russia's intent to keep the station operational until the International Space Station can be occupied. This is contradictory to news announced June 1 when Russia committed to funding the ISS through termination of the Mir space station program. At a meeting of the ISS partners, they agreed to work toward deorbiting Mir by July 1999 (SpaceNews; Flatoday).


Following a meeting on May 31, the partners in the International Space Station have announced a revised schedule revised schedule for the on-orbit assembly of the station. With the continued problems with the Russian made service module, the station is now officially one year behind the original schedule. The first element to be launched will be the Control Module (FGB) built for the US by the Russians. Renamed Zarya (Sunrise), the FGB will be launched on a Proton rocket on November 20. The first American built element, Node 1) was previously renamed Unity. It will be launched on Shuttle Mission STS-88 on December 3. The controversial Service Module will be launched in April of 1999. Together there will be 43 flights to assemble the station, including several new enhancements such as the Brazilian external component carrier and an external warehouse for spare parts. The first crew of Commander Bill Shepherd, Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev will begin a five month inaugural stay in the summer of 1999 -- arriving in Russian Soyuz. The US Laboratory will be launched in October 1999 with the first experiments slated to begin in early 2000. The Canadian Space Station Remote Manipulator System will be launched in December 1999. Final launch in the assembly is slated for January of 2004. NASA and the US Naval Laboratory continue to work on the Interim Control Module as a contingency against further problems with the Service Module and to add additional propellant capability "for a more robust space station" 3 (ESA).


Rising costs have forced NASA to scale back and postpone the first robotic sample return mission from Mars. the Mars Surveyor 2001 mission will consist of an orbiter and a lander with a rover. Some of the additional cost have arisen from problems in developing the advanced rover for the mission. The costs for the mission have climbed past the $400 million mark (SpaceNews).


On Saturday, May 30, at a Chinese Chang Zheng 3B (Long March 3B) rocket launched the Zhongwei 1 (Chinastar-1) satellite from the Xichang launching center in southwest Sichuan province. The rocket carried the Lockheed-Martin-built satellite into orbit around 6:00 p.m. EDT. The satellite will be transferred into the 87.5 degrees East longitude slot where it will serve China, Korea, India and southeast Asia with 18 C-band and 20 Ku-band transponders. The telecommunications satellite owned by China Orient Telecom Satellite Co. is expected to have a 10 year service life. This is the tenth successful Long-March launch in a row (AP; Jonathan's Space Report).


Gencorp Aerojet has delivered the first set of Reaction Control Thrust Modules (RCTM) to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space for the USAF Milstar program. Sixteen of the thrusters will be used in each satellite. Each RCTM will provide five pounds of thrust to maintain satellite position. Aerojet will deliver 49 RCTMs by September 1999 to be used on three Milstars set to be launched from 2000 to 2002. The Milstar program will provide advanced military communications between a wide variety of US military assets. The system will consist of six 10,000 pound satellites in geosynchronous orbit with another system in polar orbit (LaunchSpace).


Alliant Techsystems

The Strategic Systems Group of Alliant Techsystems has been chosen to receive contracts for the production of solid rocket boosters for the Boeing Delta space launch vehicles. The contracts are reported to be valued at $750 million an additional $1 billion in options. Alliant has been building boosters for the Delta rocket for 12 years. The GEM booster is built at the Magna, Utah solid rocket motor production facility with composite components built in Clearfield, Utah (Alliant PR).


Boeing announced that it is forming a wholy-owned subsidiary: Boeing Space Operations (BSO). The subsidiary will be based in Houston and will focus its efforts on the Boeing Information and Communications Systems, Boeing Expendable Launch Systems, the SeaLaunch joint venture and competing for NASA's Consolidated Space Operations Contract (CSOC). Boeing's North American Inc's Space Systems Division and Lockheed Martin Space Mission Systems Inc. submitted their final bid for the CSOS on May 26. This contract will consolidate mission and data services for more than 100 existing and planned NASA spacecraft. The contract, to be awarded July 1, is expected to cut in half the $600 million its annual mission support costs. The contract is for five years with an option for an additional 5 years. Former astronaut Dick Covey has been named director for BSO and the CSOC programs (LaunchSpace; Space News).


The SkyBridge Limited Partnership, as a result of a market study, has decided to increase the capacity of its global system from 144 Gbps to 200 Gbps. The system will be increased from 64 to 80 Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) satellites operating in the Ku- band utilizing an innovative "frequency re-use concept". The system is set to begin service in 2001. The additional satellites are expected to boost the cost of the system to $4.2 billion. SkyBridge is in partnership with Alcatel along with Loral, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric, Sharp, SPAR, Aerospatiale, CNES and SRIW (LaunchSpace; SpaceNews).


Aerial Images

Aerial Images and Sovinformsputnik announced June 4 that the 2 meter resolution images collected by their SPIN-2 satellite is now commercially available. The satellite was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on February 25 of this year and recovered in April. The photographs, processed by Kodak Earth Imaging, are the highest-resolution commercially available satellite imagery to-date. Two more satellite missions are planned for each of the next two years. Aerial Images is a private digital imagery company while Sovinformsputnik is a branch of the Russian Space Agency. The images will be marketed through the SPIN-2 marketing Division based in Washington DC (Aerial Images PR).



The operation of America's weather satellites have been merged under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Under the new system, NOAA will begin to control the five USAF polar-orbiting satellites currently operated by the 6th Space Operations Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The move will eliminate 228 active duty posts and is expected to eventually save $1.3 billion. NOAA currently operates two polar orbiting satellites and two geostationary satellites with a third on- orbit spare (AP).

EchoStar 4

After a month in orbit, technicians are still unable to unfurl the solar panels of the EchoStar 4 direct broadcast satellite (SpaceNews).


Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke


  • June 9 - Delta 2, flight 258, Thor-3 comsat, pad 17A Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • June 12 - Shuttle Discovery Landing, STS-91, Kennedy Space Center.
  • June 18 - Atlas 2AS, AC-153, Intelsat 805, pad 36A, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • June - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM-2 (8 communications satellites), Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.
  • June 23 - Athena 2, Ikonos-1 (CRSS), SLC-6, Vandenberg AFB.
  • July 4 - M-5, Planet-B Mars probe, Kagoshima Space Center, Japan.
  • July 10 - Ariane 44L, Flight 109, Eutelsat 3-F1 and Sirius-3, ELA- 2, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • July 10 - Delta 3, Galaxy 10, pad 17B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • July 15 - NPO Yuzhnoya Zenit 2, Globalstar Mission 3 (12 comsats), Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.
  • July 20 - Great Wall Industry Long March 2C/SD, Iridium maintenance flight (two comsats), Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, China.
  • July 25 - USAF Titan 4A, Mission A-20 (classified), Centaur upper stage, Cape Canaveral Air Station.


The current population of space has risen to 9 - all on board the docked Mir space station/Shuttle. The Mir crew include 1 Kazakh and 1 Russian. Australian-born astronaut Andy Thomas has joined the crew of Discovery. In addition, the crew of Discovery also includes 6 American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut visiting the station. This marks the completion of 3192 days of continuous human presence in space since the reoccupation of Mir on Sept 8, 1989. The first element of the International Space Station is slated for launch in 177 days.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1998

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